Doing Conference Keynotes And Lectures Remotely

I get asked to talk at a conference on a daily basis. I’m flattered by the interest, but it’s impossible for me to accomodate even a small percentage of the requests. I don’t charge anything to speak so I can’t use that as a filter, so I end up using geography and type of participation as my filters.

A while ago I wrote a rant against panels and decided I would no longer participate in them. I hate them, I hate being on them, and I hate listening to them. Every now and then I’ll agree for a friend, like I did for Howard Lindzon at the Thunderbird Global Business Dialogue in Phoenix on 11/10, but only because I know that Howard and I will simply have a blast talking about whatever we want with our poor, unsuspecting co-panelists. Plus I wanted to spend a weekend in Phoenix with Amy. So – that’s an easy filter – no to panels.

My geography filter has become refined to “I’ll do it if I’m already planning to be nearby.” Again, I make a few exceptions, but since I already travel so much it turns out that this works out ocassionally. But this is a frustrating filter for me as there are a lot of things I’m invited to talk at that I’d like to – often in conjuction with students or groups of entrepreneurs (who I love to talk to) – but doesn’t pass the geography filter.

Recently, I decided to try doing conference talks and lectures via Skype. If it’s a keynote, I figure 15 – 30 minutes is plenty. If it’s a class, an hour seems to be the appropriate length of time.

The early response has been awesome. I’ve gotten great positive feedback from the conference organizers who appreciated my involvement. The technology infrastructure is really easy – all that’s typically needed is already there given the A/V requirements of the other speakers. For me, it’s a physical dream – I can do it from my office, from the road, from a hotel room, from my house, or from Tuscany. Suddenly, I feel very untethered in the conference context.

While I don’t get the benefit of participating in the conference, nor do the people at the conference get to spend time with me, this wouldn’t happen anyway since I’m not an avid conference goer. However, if the content that I’m providing is really valued, this approach seems to work really well.

The double bonus of this working in a classroom setting is really appealing to me. I’ve always been a huge fan of incorporating guest lectures into undergraduate and post-graduate education. I love some of the revolutionary things going on in the field of education around Khan Academy, SkillShare, and our new investment Sympoz. However, for now, the traditional university classroom still exists and to the extent that I can participate regularly with students and professors who want me involved, I now have a way to make it work that let’s me relax geography as a constraint.

  • http://kevindewalt.com kevindewalt

    Great post Brad.  We thank you for joining us via Skype for our DC Leanstartup meetup a few months ago.  From the audience perspective, it was great, really nothing lost by having you on the screen.  If anything it made it possible for people to interact with you who could not afford a big conference ticket.  

  • http://twitter.com/invpartnership Louise Woodbury

    This is great, Brad. We know the geography challenges that also exist for us, having clients around the globe. We take advantage of Skype for some of our meetings, but could implement it more. Thank you so much for the post.

  • http://freepository.com John Minnihan

    “Howard and I will simply have a blast talking about whatever we want with our poor, unsuspecting co-panelists”

    Howard *is* a blast – I always have fun when he’s around.

  • http://fredmcclimans.com Fred McClimans

    The one thing that is missing is the body-language factor when speaking to those type of groups. I’ve used remote video a few times – the key for me has been to have somebody onsite providing live feedback. With Twitter, Google+, you can get real-time feedback and questions – a nice touch to make it more of an engagement than a video. Assuming you are doing the same.  BTW, totally agree about panels. Do them when they are fun (i.e., with friends), but by and large they tend to be ego fests.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Yup – the lack of body language is a little hard but I’ve actually gotten reasonably good at reading the audience. I always have the Skype camera turned on them via a laptop so I can see what’s going on.

  • C K

    I am bookmarking the three sites you mention in the last paragraph. I’ve not heard of them and am excited to know they exist. Thanks!

  • C K

    I am bookmarking the three sites you mention in the last paragraph. I’ve not heard of them and am excited to know they exist. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/RedRussak ‘Red’ Russak

    So, I guess this means you’re going to be speaking at one of the future Lean Startups Seattle events? Still, It’d be great to have you in person. When’s the next time you’re coming out? Oh, and make definitely ask Andy or Greg about my events ;) #DMF

  • http://twitter.com/RedRussak ‘Red’ Russak

    So, I guess this means you’re going to be speaking at one of the future Lean Startups Seattle events? Still, It’d be great to have you in person. When’s the next time you’re coming out? Oh, and make definitely ask Andy or Greg about my events ;) #DMF

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Happy to do it by skype!